Baseball Board Games–Winter Leagues


[This feature will appear every Tuesday here on BSI.  Questions for Earl should be sent to]

Hey Earl,

My brothers and I are looking for a baseball game, as in MONOPOLY game and computer game, to play this winter.  One of my friends said his uncle plays “Strat.”?  Any ideas?

Mike, Dresden, Maine

First, “Strat” is “Strat-o-Matic” and it is a board game that you play with dice, as is the other popular baseball game APBA.

Both games take the stats from a completed season and, using a math and some algorithms create a card for each player that represents his abilities; there are ratings for defense and speed, but most of the card is dedicated to sets of numbers that will result in a batting outcome.  The outcome is determined by a roll of two dice.

Basically, you roll the dice [one is a different color or shape] and you read the white one either as the first or second number in the pair.  Say I roll and the white die is a 5 and the color one is a 1; I read my result as “51” and look on that player’s card for 51 and then apply the number next to it, say 9, and that translates to a SINGLE to RIGHT.  I move my player piece to First base.

There are boards that account for each possible situation:  Bases Empty, Man on First, First and Second, etc., so, with a Man on First, I roll and get a 6 and a 6; the outcome for the batter is a DOUBLE and it says “Runner Scores, S out at home.”  That means that, if my runner at First is rated S [Slow] on his card, he is out at the plate.

But, you are given options.  Like a real manager, you would not have your Slow runner on First try to score on a double, so, before your roll the dice, you would announce, “Slow runner does NOT try to score on a double.”

It may sound complicated, but a complete game can be played in less than half an hour; I have played games in 20 minutes—mostly low-scoring pitchers’ battles.

In APBA, the Pitcher cares have ratings.  The pitcher gets a general rating from A to D, a rating for control [X, Y, Z] and a fielding rating [1-5].  The situation boards not only say “Runner on First,” they also have columns for overall team defense.  Before the game starts, you add up all the defensive scores for your starting players [DH does not count].  A team total of 41 might give you Defense One, while a 32 or below may get you Defense Three, but most teams land in the Defense Two category.

When you look at the “Runner on First” board, you also refer to one of the three Defensive columns to determine the outcome for the batter and the runner.

Without going into all the nuances of the cards and rules, suffice to say that these games reasonably replicate the players’ actual stats and allow you to be a very active manager.  You will find that the games “roll” along with a series of outs in rapid succession that are then interrupted by hits and the game pauses for both managers to make decisions. [Pinch hit? Bring in reliever? Intentional walk? Defensive replacement to improve from Defense Two to Defense One? Sac bunt?]

I played a few games of Strat and thousands of games of APBA and both games are great fun.  The Strat-Heads will tell you that their game is more sophisticated:  EX:  it takes into account the L-R, batter-pitcher factor.

As an old geezer, I enjoy the feel of the cards and the clicking of the dice in my hand, but there is a computer version of APBA and Strat-o-matic baseball, where the computer rolls for you and checks for the outcomes.  {APBA also has a Master Game, but start with the basic game.]

APBA lore claims that guys have played the entire season with ALL teams and the stats work out to be nearly identical to the actual MLB season.  When the computer version came out, you could let the computer automatically play all the games and report the results.

Even with the original board game you can:

  • Have an open draft with all the player cards, or just the NL or AL players and create your own teams and leagues.
  • Play teams from different years and eras against each other.  Find out if the 1927 Yankees were better than the 1997 Yankees; the 1967 Sox vs. the 2013 Sox.
  • Replay World Series from different seasons.  What if X manager had made different choices?

Playing individual games is run, but it tends to be like the last game of the season with no concerns for pitching rotations and long-term tendencies like batting averages.

Statistics are more reliable when they are more numerous.

I recommend playing at least a 5 or 7-game Championship Series or World Series to allow the rotations to have their effect and let the general season averages have some space to repeat.

I belonged to a league with a few other guys—a Math Professor, a Grocery Store clerk, a History Professor, and a mail man and we played an 81-game schedule.  We played actual rosters from a single season and it was a blast, until the Math Prof. reverse engineered the stats and math formulas and surprised the “baseball smart” guys with strange, but effective, moves. [But, the Grocery Store clerk beat us all.]

Here are the addresses for APBA and Strat-o-Matic:



[This feature will appear every Tuesday here on BSI.  Questions for Earl should be sent to]